Sometimes we start trying new habits or routines, particularly when a New Year comes around, and we adopt these new habits because we think they are “healthy” and good for us and our wellbeing. But are they actually healthy?
Many of these “healthy habits” can be detrimental to our sleep, which is actually a huge contributor to our overall health. We practice these habits l without being conscious about whether or not it can contribute to healthy sleep.
In this article, we look at how some perceived healthy habits and practices can adversely affect your sleep.
Allocating time for physical exercise is obviously extremely beneficial for your overall health and wellness, and there's nothing wrong with doing it.
But, there are ways where exercise can cause issues with your sleep, contrary to the popular belief that being physically tired means you’ll fall asleep faster.
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing
One of the ways that exercise can cause sleep deprivation is by overtraining. Overdoing your physical exercise can change sleep patterns and can lead to poor sleep quality.
Feeling sore from overtraining can cause disruptions during your sleep and may wake you up in the middle of the night. Not getting enough deep sleep takes away your body's chance to fully recover itself and repair the damaged tissues from working out.
Even if you get enough hours of sleep, an overtrained body will not be able to fully recover and refresh itself, which can lead you to wake up feeling tired and lethargic.
There's always a right time
Another way where exercising can affect your sleep schedule is by doing so too close to your usual bedtime.
You should be feeling calm and relaxed before bed, which is quite the opposite of a post-workout high. Exerting energy during a workout also increases your body temperature, which is counterintuitive for sleeping.
Your body's sleep-wake cycle goes through different phases. Lowering the body's core temperature is one of your body's integral ways to help you sleep.
By exercising too close to your bedtime, your circadian rhythm may be thrown off, making it difficult for you to fall asleep or to have a good restful sleep.
Try to adjust your physical activities to an earlier time. It's best to do it right after you wake up in the morning as this is when your body feels the freshest. For evening workouts, opt for low impact exercises such as walking, pilates and yoga at night.
Watching what you eat and making sure you eat plenty of nutritious foods contributes so much to your health and overall wellness.
This does NOT mean dieting. Majority of diets can lead to unhealthy habits, sleep problems and other health-related concerns.
Having an overly restricted diet causes you to miss out on the necessary nutrients that your body needs to repair and nourish itself during your sleep. You’ll end up feeling weak and tired rather than refreshed the next day.
Apart from the lack of nutrition, going to bed with a stomach that's too empty may cause some discomfort or annoyance during sleep.
Should you be eating right before bed?
The short answer is no. Eating right before bedtime may also affect your sleep quality. Going to bed while you are still in the process of digestion can cause stomach acids to rise up. This can cause heartburn, which can make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
Sleeping also slows down our intestines' digestive process. Having food intake too close to bedtime may also cause indigestion that can negatively affect your sleep quality. But if you’re starving before bed, it’s probably best to have a small snack.
Going to bed too early
You might be wondering - how is it possible that going to bed early would be bad for your sleep? But, there's actually some truth to it.
Good sleep hygiene practice is that you would only lay down in your bed when you are truly ready to sleep. Going to bed earlier than your usual sleep schedule is not always the best case since your internal clock is not accustomed to that time.
What happens instead is that you may just wander off doing other things in bed that may keep you awake longer than what you have intended.
Most people who go to bed earlier than their usual sleep schedule tend to browse on their cellphones or watch TV. This exposes them to blue light which causes wakefulness and disrupts your circadian rhythm.
It's not an absolute fact that going to bed too early would not let you get to fall asleep right away, as some people can fall asleep faster than others. But for people who struggle with a bedtime that's too early, this may not be the best way to go.
What if I really want to sleep earlier than usual?
If you have an established bedtime routine, then it's easier to trick your brain that it's time to sleep, regardless if it's not your usual sleep schedule.
For example, if you drink tea before bed or do aromatherapy, do it an earlier time or when you feel ready to sleep so that your brain would associate everything to sleepiness.
But if you don't have an established sleep routine and really need to sleep at an earlier time, you may do ways to improve your sleep hygiene.
Getting rid of bright lights and loud noises in the room is one of the best examples of ways to try to get better sleep at an earlier time. Just make sure you feel the need to rest before going to bed.
Practise healthy sleep habits
The common theme of healthy habits that may be bad for your sleep is overdoing it. Whether it's too much exercise, too much dieting, trying to sleep too early - they may affect your quality and amount of sleep.
Making adjustments to your lifestyle and your sleeping habits is still the key to getting a good night's sleep.